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Mostly MLB Notes: Talking Yasiel Puig and a look around the league

Dalton Del Don
Roto Arcade

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Yasiel Puig is living up to the hype (USAT)

Normally I’m guilty of overhyping young players, but I questioned Yasiel Puig’s high ADP entering 2014 because of his 1.63 GB/FB ratio, poor SB success rate (57.9%) and propensity to get hurt. I acknowledged a young player like Puig had plenty of room to improve in those areas, but it’s clear I was ultimately wrong. Puig continues to hit a lot of grounders (his 50.8 GB% is actually higher this season compared to last), and his SB% remains terrible (his 57.1% mark is worse this year compared to last). But none of that has prevented the talented 23-year-old from posting a .333/.427/.610 line, as it’s evident Puig is good at baseball. If you want to dig deep into the underlying stats, I see no reason to call his career 21.5 HR/FB% a fluke, as Puig is strong, mitigating the fact he hits so many grounders. He’s also fast, hits a bunch of groundballs and has just two popups this season, so while Puig’s high BABIP (.383 career) is likely to come down some, it’s unlikely to be by a significant margin. His 16.9 SwStr% as a rookie last year has dropped to 11.8% this season, so it’s clear he’s making the proper adjustments. In fact, Puig has seen his plate discipline improve every month of his career. And as for his continued poor SB%, it’s not exactly ideal, as it’s finally resulted in him running less (he hasn’t tried to steal since May 4). Still this is someone born in the 90s who’s already a star and looks like a soon-to-be superstar. Puig is going to be a perennial top-10 fantasy pick for years to come.

This young fan’s ball switch was highly impressive.

Paul Goldschmidt’s second homer of the game was nice, but the fan’s catch was even better.

With all the Tommy John surgeries being performed early this season, at least it’s comforting to know coaches are being extra cautious at the high school level.

The A’s have allowed 20 runs over their last 12 games, including somehow winning Wednesday’s game despite getting outhit 9-1. Their season run differential is an MLB-best +98. They’ve done this despite losing Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin to season-ending injuries, while Dan Strailey performed so badly he’s been sent to the minors. Moreover, presumptive closer Jim Johnson, who’s the only reliever to record 50+ saves in each of the past two seasons and deemed worthy of being paid a $10 million one-year contract by the stat-savvy, cash-strapped A’s, somehow has a 7.00 ERA despite a solid 8.2 SwStr% and a 0.0 HR/FB%. But enough of the negatives, as Oakland’s bullpen has a 2.82 ERA despite Johnson being a total bust. Josh Donaldson surprised in a big way last year, posting a .301/.384/.499 line, finishing as a top-30 fantasy player. He also played fantastic defense, resulting in a 7.7 WAR that ranked third best in all of baseball (and ahead of Miguel Cabrera), if you’re into that kind of thing. Donaldson was never considered a big prospect, so some were skeptical about his 2014 fantasy prospects, but after a shaky start, if anything, he’s actually been better this year. Since the beginning of last season, Donaldson has hit 34 home runs (this is especially impressive when considering his home park has decreased HRs by 17 percent over the past three seasons, which is the most in the American League). His current 2.5 WAR ranks fourth best in major league baseball, and he also has been the 10th most valuable fantasy player in 2014.

Headlines of the Week: Florida Man Tries To Skip Out On Restaurant Bill By Getting Into Wrong CarMan Discovers He Is Not A U.S. Citizen After 49 Years Voting, Working For GovernmentUpset Over Stale Cinnamon Roll, Woman Threatens ‘To Shoot Down’ Mount Pleasant Burger King'Biggest Dinosaur Ever’ Unearthed In ArgentinaWoman Sues Georgia City Over Law Banning Sex Toys, Says They Saved Her Marriage...Woman’s Car Attacked By Self-Identified ‘High Elf’ Battling EvilMarijuana ‘Sizzurp’ Hits The L.A. MarketMan Suing Almost Everyone For All The Money On Earth...Substitute Teacher Fired For Asking 4th Graders For Dating Advice.

Prince Fielder’s MLB-leading 547 consecutive games played streak ended Saturday thanks to a herniated disc in his neck, but more importantly, his OPS has dropped for a third straight season, currently sitting at a career low .720. The hope was last year’s struggles was brought upon by off field issues and the move to a terrific hitter’s park (Rangers Ballpark in Arlington has increased run scoring by 15 percent over the past three seasons, second only to Coors Field. It’s also boosted home runs for left-handed batters by 22 percent over this same span, which is the third highest in the AL) would lead to a big bounce back campaign (I predicted Fielder to lead the American League in home runs). Instead, he has three homers on the year, all of which have come at home (where he’s batting .187 and slugging .347). Fielder has gotten a bit unlucky when it comes to big flies (his 7.7 HR/FB% is well below his career mark of 18.9%), but his 1.64 GB/FB is by far a career high. The still just 30-year-old will no doubt be better moving forward, but there’s also a real chance Fielder is no longer an elite hitter.

Police Blotter: Ohio Issues Bright Yellow License Plates To Shame DUI OffendersFleeing Florida Car Thief Hit Alligator, Crashed31-Year-Old Sophomore Arrested After Attending Texas High School For Eight MonthsDrunk Man Steals Limo With Passengers Inside, Police SayPolice: Man Tried To Have Sex With ATM, Picnic TableMan Wearing “It’s All Fun & Games Until Cops Show Up” T-Shirt Is Arrested When The Cops Show Up.

Quick Hits: Alexei Ramirez has already matched last year’s six homers this season in 453 fewer at bats. What’s crazy is that his 11.3 HR/FB% is the second highest mark of his career, and he currently has a whopping 22.6 IFFB%, yet Ramirez has a .340 BABIP that’s easily a career high. Go figure. Baseball remains tough to predict. Ramirez, whose 131 wRC+ is second behind only Troy Tulowitzki among all shortstops, is very likely going to hit worse from here on out, but he’s going to be a huge profit for those who drafted him for a second straight year…After failing to reach 20 homers since 2009, Justin Morneau has nine over his first 47 games with the Rockies, putting him on pace to finish with 31 bombs. That would be the second highest total of his career, just two shy of his mark during the season in which he won the AL MVP in 2006. Coors Field remains helpful…A.J. Pollock has had quite the interesting season, as after owning a .641 OPS on April 20, he lost his everyday job. Despite seeing plenty of time off the bench since, Pollock currently sports a .890 OPS that ranks fifth best in all of baseball among center fielders. Moreover, he’s on pace to finish with 17 homers and 20 steals despite the early season slump and subsequent benching… Here’s Hector Sanchez at bat with a straw in his mouth. And here's his teammate Santiago Casilla suffering what looks like a potentially serious injury during an at bat in which his manager ordered him not to swing...Jenry Mejia’s ERA sat at 1.99 over the first four starts of the season, but he then proceeded to allow 16 earned runs over his next 14.2 innings. As a result, he was moved to the bullpen, which suddenly made him the best option to close for the Mets. He’s put together 4.1 scoreless innings with a 5:0 K:BB ratio since, including a win and a save. Mejia looks like the favorite to lead New York in saves over the rest of the season.

Meanwhile, in Russia.

In last week’s column, I mentioned how numerous pitchers (while ignoring Danny Salazar!) who’ve lost velocity have maintained an elite K% yet have seen their ERAs skyrocket, and David Price has only compounded that since (his 24.6 K-BB% ranks third in MLB, yet his 4.28 ERA ranks 76th among starters. This despite the Rays fielding a top-10 defense and Tropicana Field decreasing run scoring more than any other American League park over the past three seasons). Here’s an interesting explanation for Price’s 2014 season from Jason Collette.

First John Kruk said: “I believe the best thing ever to happen to Bryce Harper is him breaking his thumb.” Then Harold Reynolds claimed he doesn’t like run differential because “you start every game 0-0.” Of course, Reynolds also faulted Yu Darvish for not getting a win during an outing in which he allowed two runs over 8.0 innings while striking out 11 batters. I know, this is a low hanging fruit, but if we don’t criticize the clueless who are given powerful positions in the MLB community, you might be left with this.

Quick Hits Part Deux: There’s not much to talk about Dellin Betances outside of AL-Only leagues, but forward thinking owners need to be on the lookout. He struck out six batters over 2.1 innings during a recent outing and has 45 punchouts over 26.0 innings on the year. David Robertson is rightfully locked into the closer’s role, but Betances looks like something special moving forward. His K-BB% (35.1) leads all of baseball, and he’s combined that with a 56.1 GB%...Jose Abreu has a 38:3 K:BB ratio since April 15, but it’s hard to argue with his power. The rookie was on pace to hit 55 homers and knock in 170 RBI before he went down with a calf injury that sent him to the disabled list. No hitter has reached 55 home runs since Ryan Howard in 2006. Let’s hope Abreu’s injury doesn’t keep him out long…After striking out 65 batters over 52.0 innings last season, producing an incredible 14.6 SwStr%, Danny Salazar was one of fantasy’s most anticipated breakout candidates (I’m as guilty as any of thinking this, and I apologize for strongly recommending him). But his velocity has been way down, so despite a still impressive 25.5 K%, Salazar has allowed eight homers over 40.2 innings, resulting in a 5.53 ERA and a trip to the minors. Trevor Bauer becomes a must own in all fantasy leagues as a result…The current major league leaders in xFIP are Masahiro Tanaka, Jose Fernandez, Stephen Strasburg, David Price and the immortal Dallas Keuchel…I don’t know what to make of this, but Mike Trout is batting .185/.296/.369 with 22 strikeouts over 65 at bats this month. It likely has a lot to do with a hamstring injury he’s been dealing with over the past couple of weeks…Jeff Smardzija’s 1.46 ERA is by far the lowest for a pitcher winless over the first 10 starts of a season in MLB history (next closest is 2.33 that came in 1917). His ERA leads the majors, and yet he hasn’t recorded a victory. It’s almost as if that stat isn’t a great indicator of performance.

Song of the Week: Jack White – “Just One Drink.”

Song Of The Week Part Two: Panama Wedding – “All Of The People.”

The penultimate episode of this season’s “Hannibal” was pretty incredible and might have officially surpassed the TV show in regards to the “Silence Of The Lambs” movie. I can’t stop recommending this show enough. But then again, “I’m full of myself.”…To continue TV talk, I’m a big fan of “Bates Motel” and finally caught up to the finale, which didn’t disappoint, and last week’s “Game Of Thrones” has me wondering if this is the show’s best season yet.

Longreads of the Week: “The End Of Food” and “A Man Walks Into A Bank.”

Quick Hits Part Tres: Juan Francisco has a career 23.1 HR/FB%, so I’m not saying he can’t continue to keep hitting home runs this year, and he’s definitely valuable in daily leagues (he’s hitting .091/.125/.227 against lefties and .358/.449/.761 against righties), but here’s a crazy stat: Francisco has a 40.7 FB% to go along with a 36.5 HR/FB% (he has a higher HR/FB% (41.2) than FB% (39.5) versus righties)…Despite moving to a park that has increased home runs by 25 percent over the past three seasons, which is the third most in baseball, Carlos Beltran has opened his Yankee career batting an ugly .234/.286/.430. Moreover, he’s now dealing with an elbow injury that has put him on the DL, and if surgery is required, will sideline him anywhere from 2-3 months. This doesn’t look good. Ichiro Suzuki could once again become fantasy relevant as a result…Zack Greinke has tied Roger Clemens' record of 21 straight starts with two or fewer earned runs. No one else has done it in the last centuryKolten Wong got off to a slow start, but after being sent down, his replacement Mark Ellis didn’t prove to be a big upgrade (.185/.270/.215). Wong proceeded to bat .344 during his minor league stint and has gone 7-for-21 since returning to St. Louis and looks like the team’s regular No. 2 hitter. Despite hitting well below his capability, Wong has stolen five bases over 25 games this season…Derek Jeter’s been able to stay healthy, but it looks like he may have been better off retiring sooner, as the soon-to-be 40 year old shortstop is on pace to score 40 runs and record 29 RBI despite batting second in the Yankees lineup everyday. Over his past 306 at bats, Jeter has two homers and one steal….Sean Doolittle walked his first batter of the season Tuesday, giving him a still acceptable 32:1 K:BB ratio on the year. Since entering the league in 2012, his 0.98 WHIP is 10th best among all relievers, and he’s officially been named Oakland’s stopper. Doolittle has the upside to be a top-five fantasy closer from here on out…Eric Hosmer is on pace to finish the year with 60 doubles and four homers.

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